Friday, May 24, 2013

For Lazier, Not Just Another Indy Start

Starting from Row 11 on Sunday, 1996 Indianapolis 500 winner Buddy Lazier won't be content to stay there, if he has anything to say about it.

"Of course, you're in it to win it always when you race," affirmed Lazier while surrounded by members of the press during the Indy 500's Media Day. "There have been so many times here where we coulda-woulda-shoulda won it, finishing second twice. I'll know right away if I've got that kind of car."

It's a story that begun back in 1989, when Lazier tried to qualify for his first Indy 500. It will see another chapter written this weekend, as the 45 year-old driver makes his return to a race he last competed in back in 2008. This start, his 17th at Indy, will give him an appearance or attempt at the 500 in four different decades, a rare feat shared only by a handful of drivers with names such as A.J. Foyt (who drove in 5 different decades), Mario Andretti, Gordon Johncock, and Gary Bettenhausen. Despite the variations and changes in racing during that time frame, Lazier was very complimentary towards the current DW12 chassis.

Lazier will start his 17th Indy 500 on Sunday from P32.
Courtesy IndyCar Media. Photo by Chris Jones.
"I love it," Lazier enthused. "It reminds me, actually, of the Lola/Reynard era, which was a good one for me. I think that sort of helped me adapt. There's still a lot of weight--a lot of rear weight in this car, so that's sort of an engineering conundrum we're still trying to solve."

Still, it isn't just longevity that Lazier is after on Sunday. It's speed, too. The program he built with his father Bob (an accomplished racer in his own day), Lazier Partners Racing, will be sporting Chevy power under the cowling of their #91 Advance Auto Parts machine.

"Every time we've attacked the car to find a little more speed, it's come up," said Lazier. "It's a great car."

Lazier also feels fortunate to have Chevy power, admitting going with the Bowtie brand has been a plus.

"No question about it, I've been as fortunate as can be to have Chevy," Lazier confirmed. "Nothing against Honda--they're both great motors, but I've been incredibly happy with my motor, for sure. It's incredible what it'll do. The last time we had turbochargers, you'd get maximum boost at the end of the straightaway, then it would hiss in your ear and you'd have to adjust your wastegastes manually.  Now, it's automatically adjusting, so you've got the max everywhere."

Pleased as he is, Lazier also knows that things don't always go a driver or team's way at Indianapolis.

"When it comes to this place, the cream of the cars will always rise to the front," stated Lazier. "If we've hit it right on setup, we'll go to the front. If not, I'll make the best of it."

Lazier will have a new livery for the 500.
Design: Daniele Sanfilippo
In most eyes, Lazier has done enough to make his 500 legacy secure. But after failing to qualify in his last attempt at Indy in 2009, he knew that's not how he wanted to leave things.

"I never felt comfortable with where we left it," admitted Lazier. "I was very unhappy with the way it was left. You can imagine, if it haunts me having a car that should have won that didn't win, how it haunts you when you have a car that just wasn't fast enough.

The way we left it, it had been eating at me, for sure. It felt good to come back--but added a lot of pressure to really only have one day of practice. We had to get a lot done in short amount of time, so that goes into it. We really only had two weeks' notice, and had to act fast just to get everything assembled. Now, that's behind us, and we're looking ahead, and hopefully using experience to get where we want to be."

He also confirmed Lazier Partners Racing was working to make their entry at Indianapolis an annual one, which could mean more opportunities for Buddy Lazier to return to the Indianapolis 500 in the years to come.

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